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About Found Footage (film technique)

Found footage is a subgenre in films in which all or a substantial part of a fictional film is presented as if it were discovered film or video recordings. The events on screen are typically seen through the camera of one or more of the characters involved, often accompanied by their real-time off-camera commentary. For verisimilitude, the cinematography may be done by the actors themselves as they perform, and shaky camera work and naturalistic acting are routinely employed.
The footage may be presented as if it were "raw" and complete, or as if it had been edited into a narrative by those who "found" it.

The most common use of the technique is in horror films (e.g., The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity), where the footage is purported to be the only surviving record of the events, with the participants now missing or dead. It has also been used in comedy (e.g., Babysitting, Project X), science-fiction (e.g., Project Almanac, Europa Report), and drama (e.g., Exhibit A, Zero Day).

Found footage is originally the name of an entirely different genre, but has sometimes been used to describe pseudo-documentaries with this narrative technique. The film magazine Variety has for example used the term "faux found-footage film" to describe the 2012 film Grave Encounters 2.
The film scholar David Bordwell has criticized this recent use because of the confusion it creates, and instead prefers the term "discovered footage" for the narrative gimmick.

Found footage films typically employ one or more of the following four cinematic techniques: first person perspective, pseudo-documentary or mockumentary, news footage, and surveillance footage. These four footage sources were determined to be the most prevalent in an analysis of 500 found footage films conducted by the Found Footage Critic website.


The technique has precedents in literature, particularly in the epistolary novel, which typically consists of either correspondence or diary entries, purportedly written by a character central to the events. Like found footage, the epistolary technique has often been employed in horror fiction: both Dracula and Frankenstein are epistolary novels, as is The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft.

In filmmaking, it dates back at least as far as 1980's Cannibal Holocaust, but was popularised by
The Blair Witch Project (1999),
Reviewing V/H/S for The AV Club Scott Tobia noted that the genre "has since become to the ’00s and ’10s what slasher movies were to the ’80s"  The format has been subsequently used in well-known films such as Paranormal Activity (2007), REC (2007), and Chronicle (2012).

The genre has appeal to producers because of its lower cost, with the feeling of an amateur documentary allowing lower production values and filming quality than would be accepted on a conventional film.

Writer-director Christopher Landon, who has made several found footage horror films, has argued that the genre is likely to extend in future outside horror: "Inevitably, because of the flexibility of our crew and our schedule and how we operate in general, because we're so quick and lightweight and easy and functional that way, we tend to shoot a lot of stuff... I don't think found footage is in danger of running out. I think it's in that process now where I think we're going to obviously start to see more and more movies that are
tackling different genres through that lens. I think you're going to see more comedies. I think we're going to see a lot of sci-fi movies... sometimes it reminds me of when reality

TV first really hit and was growing. There was a lot of pushback and people saying, 'Oh, it's going to go away, it's going to go away.' But it didn't go away. It just changed a lot... YouTube has completely changed the way that we experience movies because
people are out there making stuff all the time and capturing moments, so there's a certain language that I think we've adopted. So I think that the found footage format connects to that. I think it's very relatable to people."

Over the past few years, the genre has been popularized in mainstream film-making, owing to the critical and commercial success of films like Cloverfield, District 9, and Paranormal Activity.

Complete List of Found Footage Films
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